Notes Towards Free Culture

Critique of the ICC’s report on the digital economy in Europe

US spooks plotted to destroy Wikileaks

Entertainment industry sours on term “pirate” — too sexy

Spotify: Make Money with Analogue Scarcity

New ACTA leak: It’s a screwjob for the world’s poor countries

Child-abuse survivors oppose EU censorwall

How Internet censorship harms schools

Myths and realities about job losses in Europe due to illegal downloads

An amazing post about how real artists see the opportunities of the Internet and the threat of overly-expansive copyright

Various Links

Werewolves in Music

New UK edition of “Lonely Werewolf Girl” in shops now

Graphical perception – learn the fundamentals first

More on the Synthetic Aesthetics residencies

Hacker Conference Calls for Projects and Tech Art

(Link to) The Economics of (Art) Fakes

Lady Gaga – a neccessarily empty posthuman sign

K-Punk didn’t like Burton’s Alice (and I agree with them about RTD’s Who)

SaaS – Why Isn’t Wikipedia The Same As Google Docs?
Richard Stallman’s new essay on Software as a Service (SaaS) is quite explicit about why a group of friends or colleagues collaborating to write an article on Google Docs, which is SaaS by Stallman’s definition, is different from them collaborating to write the same article on Wikipedia, which is not SaaS despite providing very similar collaborative text editing functionality?
“Using a joint project’s servers isn’t SaaS because the computing you do in this way isn’t yours personally. For instance, if you edit pages on Wikipedia, you are not doing your own computing; rather, you are collaborating in Wikipedia’s computing.”
The difference between Google Docs and Wikipedia is not a matter of technological or legal form, although the difference is reflected in those forms. The difference is social. With Wikipedia you are volunteering your labour on Wikipedia’s servers to help the Wikipedia project achieve their ends within society. With Google Docs you are trying to achieve your own ends within society by using computing resoures that Google control and can deny to you or use against you.
The key question is the one that the title of Stallman’s essay poses – who does the server serve; the people who access it over the internet, or the people who run the software on their server? To put it another way; whose ends are being realised using the software? Where people wish to use software as a tool to achieve their own ends, they must be free to do so. Where people wish to volunteer their labour to a project to achieve someone else’s ends by accessing that person’s software, that is a (slightly) different matter.
Whether something is Software as a Service or not does not exhaust the ethical issues of web applications. We still need the Franklin Street Declaration and AGPL-licenced software. What Stallman’s essay adds to this is insight into how what we do online affects our freedom to use software, strong guidelines for how to protect that freedom, and possible future directions for people writing software that respects users’ freedom. 
Links Roundup 2010-03-26
Miguel de Icaza acknowledges Mono’s past problems with patents, but not its current ones –
Theora is not more of a patent threat than h246, Gruber 😉 –
Gruber’s Theora journey continues (answers to his questions – because it would be easier to establish the precedent while the MPEG-LA won’t face massive retaliation from cross-licensees, and it depends on the text of the licence)  –
An example of “open source” hardware’s growing pains. Ideas of “openness”, “share-alike” and “the commons” can easily be misleading here: it is only users of hardware who need schematics in order to protect their freedom, the original authors of the schematics neither need nor are owed them, and the freedom of users of simple hardware may not be restricted by the lack of schematics (I don’t know) –
The UK GIS industry’s largest players are, unsurprisingly, against making Ordinance Survey data free despite the fact that it would be better for the economy than they are-
Synthetic biology meets art, you can apply for a residency in the UK or the US until March 31st 2010. Mutate and take over the artworld! –
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It’s Foo! It’s A Bar! Come To The FooBar!

If you’re in Boston on Friday, come to the FooBar!

With a lot of people in town for the LibrePlanet conference, we decided to have a little event of our own. 

If you’re interested in free software, free network services, art, music and copyleft, come along! 
We’re meeting at 7pm, on Friday 19th March 2010.
The venue is the back room of JJ Foleys Bar and Grille, on the Red Line in Downtown Crossing and just a 10-12 minute fast train journey from Harvard Square. 
If you’ve used, or you’re excited to find out the latest about daisychain development and some of the musical projects we have in the pipeline, come along. We’ll be giving out free CDs with some our work, as a sampler.
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Digital Economy Bill Orphan Works, DACS and Murdoch

The end game is now in sight. The Digital Economy Bill is now expected to become law within the next 6 weeks. It introduces orphan works usage rights, which – unless amended, which HMG says it will not – will allow the commercial use of any photograph whose author cannot be identified through a suitably negligent search. That is potentially about 90% of the photos on the internet.

Copyright in photos is essentially going to cease to exist, since there is no ineradicable way of associating ownership details short of plastering your name right across the image. Photographer’s organisations have pressed hard for mandatory attribution to deter orphans being manufactured. Early in the consultation process the IPO accepted the irresistible logic that it was completely unreasonable to permit orphan use without a balancing requirement to not orphan photos in the first place. However, the IPO recognised with dismay that this would mean “taking on Rupert” (Murdoch).

Publishers have a long history of opposing our moral rights. They were responsible for the feeble and unenforceable moral rights clauses in the 1988 Act. They want their branding, not ours, and they want maximum freedom to exploit our IP at minimum cost and inconvenience.

The IPO avoided confrontation with Murdoch, who does have something of a rep for being a vital friend in an election year. The Bill contains no deterrent to the creation of orphans, no penalties for anonymising your work, no requirement for bylines. It is a luncheon voucher for industry hungry for free and cheap content.

So Flickr, Google Images, personal websites, all of it will become commercial publishers’ photolibrary. A fee will have to be deposited with a collecting society in case the owner spots the usage. The author who discovers his work has been used as an orphan can then make a claim and receive a percentage of the peanuts, after the collecting society has had its share, and the government its share. […]

I disagree with this argument for two reasons.

Firstly, the national press in the UK already uses copyrighted photographs that it finds on the internet without permission, pay or attribution. No additional legislation is required to allow this, they’ve already given themselves permission. The problem of unattributed, unpaid exploitation of work is therefore a current one that needs tackling rather than a future one that can be prevented.
Secondly, the best way of tackling this problem is precisely the one that is argued against in the blog post above – the use of a professional  collecting society. I say this because of the example of DACS, the Design and Artists Copyright Society. In 2008 (the most recent year for which figures are available) DACS paid out over 3 million poun to its members that it had recovered for unauthorized use of their work.

DACS has expanded to cover the artists resale right and could easily expand to handle orphan works. It is big enough to take on big business, and it supports the Digital Economy Bill –
“DACS, the Design and Artists Copyright Society, today welcomed the Government’s publication of the Digital Economy Bill, in particular the provisions for the modernisation of the copyright licensing system and access to orphan works.

The bill paves the way for the introduction of extended collective licensing which will make it simpler for visual works to be made available, while ensuring creators’ rights are respected.”

I do not welcome the Digital Economy Bill, due to its illiberal and economically harmful “three strikes” legislation and other detrimental measures. But if the bill is passed then the responses by organizations like DACS to the orphan works measures that it contains will help photographers, illustrators and artists to see their work used without payment or attribution much less, rather than much more.

To be blunt, photographers who are panicking about the orphan works part of the Digital Economy Bill are panicking about not managing and exploiting their rights effectively. Collecting societies are not perfect; they tend to oppose Creative Commons licencing and Fair Use, and they are middlemen. But they provide a service that fits not only the future problem of orphan works legislation but the current problem of a mass media that simply doesn’t care about photographers rights.

This may be a rude awakening for some photographers. This is also an opportunity to address not just future issues but current injustice as well. The photographic community should seize it, whether or not the Digital Economy Bill becomes law.

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Digital Economy Bill Orphan Works Panic

“Orphan Works” are copyrighted works where the rightsholder cannot be
located to grant permission for the work to be used, usually some
decades after the fact. They are a real and growing problem. One of the
several positive features of the Gowers Report was its recommendation
that this problem be tackled by the government.

Orphan works legislation was shouted down last year in the US. The
reaction against the proposed legislation there was led by minor trade
groups and concerned amateurs who stood to benefit financially or
psychologically from defeating it.

A similar panic about the Digital Economy Bill’s clause 42 has arisen
on the Internet here. Any professional illustrator or photographer will
belong to an organization such as DACS that administers the copyright
of their works. Yet a lot of familiar nonsense about the DEB imposing
onerous new registration procedures and costs and “destroying
copyright” has suddenly sprung up.

I don’t support bad legislation. The DEB needs throwing out. If it is
not thrown out then clause 42 needs discussion and revision. But orphan
works legislation is needed and does not place an undue burden on the
(often soi disant) work-for-hire professionals who seem, frankly, most
afraid of it. Since the arguments against orphan works legislation here
are the same as in the US so, broadly, are the answers to them –

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Digital Pioneers

Furtherfield have published my review of the “Digital Pioneers” show at the V&A –

It’s already had a lot of attention and some positive feedback. Which I really appreciate. Take a look, and leave feedback at Furtherfield’s site if you’ve any comments or questions.
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